Administrators work toward diversifying faculty

Some 50 Mississippi State administrators involved with hiring decisions are working to achieve greater diversity among employees using information shared at a recent workshop.

Sponsored by the university's Office of the Provost and Office of Diversity and Equity Programs, the training was led by Renee Baker of the Rochester (N.Y.) Institute of Technology.

Since she became manager of faculty recruitment in 2002, the coeducational university of more than 17,000 students, 1,000 full-time faculty members and 3,600 total employees ( has received national recognition for its aggressive recruitment strategies. The achievement is so successful that the program has become known widely as the "RIT Model."

During the campus session, Provost and Executive Vice President Jerry Gilbert said MSU long has been committed to recruitment of faculty members of color and also women, two historically underrepresented groups on many campuses.

"We have done very well at Mississippi State, but we know that we can do better," Gilbert said.

Baker reminded those in attendance that the attainment of diversity goals is much more than just numbers and compliance.

"It has to be about institutional commitment and individual will; in other words, changing hearts and minds," she observed, adding that recruitment alone cannot accomplish goals apart from retention and organizational environment issues.

"I certainly have gotten the feeling from talking with the president and the provost that the commitment is here for seeing this mission move forward at MSU," Baker said.

In addition to small-group sessions on various related topics, participants were asked to draft statements to express how achieving a diverse faculty affects the successful accomplishment of the university's mission.

Baker emphasized that one major advantage of a diverse faculty is that it tends to encourage a diverse student population. Diversity among staff positions is also important, she added.

"Whether we work as part of the faculty or the staff, no matter where we serve or in what capacity, everyone should have a common goal and a vision before us, as well as a plan for how to get there," Baker said.

One workshop participant pointed out that, as the state's largest institution of higher learning, MSU enjoys a reputation for offering a welcoming atmosphere. Baker responded by saying such a welcoming environment "is imperative" for recruiting faculty of color.

Among other issues on Baker's list of diversity fundamentals: leadership and institutional commitment; climate self assessment; removal of conscious and unconscious barriers; and resource allocation.

For more information about MSU's Office of Diversity and Equity Programs, visit

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